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End of Term Report Part 3 22/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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The hardest episode to write so far, simply because the status of the first two subjects is a little up in the air…

10 – Danny Graham

There’s not a lot to say here, really. Twenty-seven goals speaks for itself, although perhaps less so Graham’s herculean contribution to our season in terms of tieing together our attacking play. Danny’s first season with Watford featured barren spells without goals, but he was well worth his place during those spells for his industry, his link-up play, and his intelligence… Tom Cleverley and Henri Lansbury both benefitted from the space he created. This year his role as the fulcrum of the attacking play was undiminished… but the barren spells didn’t come except, arguably, harshly, at the very end of the season. Having a quick sidekick in Marvin Sordell didn’t hurt Graham at all, but in any event Graham has developed into the perfect second tier striker; a bit of everything, and humility as well. You wouldn’t swap him for any other striker in the division, bar none.

Next Season: Whether the perfect second tier striker is up to being a Premier League striker is something we’re likely to find out. Graham’s public eagerness to test himself at the highest level is one pointer, another our very noisy rejection of QPR’s baffling opening bid for Graham. Baffling – and I’m digressing a little – because it’s not quite clear what they hoped to achieve by it. An early bid to get in ahead of any rivals still focused on the Premiership relegation bunfight would make sense, but not at that price. £4m, and the time to remodel, perhaps we’d have been tempted. So this bid achieves precisely nothing for QPR, but gives us the opportunity to shout from the rooftops in case anyone wasn’t paying attention already. “Look, that’s NO to £2.5m. Who’s next? Don’t be shy…”. Was Warnock doing Malky a favour? Or was he drawing someone else’s fire, someone also eyeing his real target? Or is he just an idiot? Anyway… is Danny equipped for the top flight? Difficult. My reservation would be that he’s good at everything, but not brilliant at anything. So… he’s quick, but not like Theo Walcott. He’s strong, but he’s no Alan Shearer. He’s clever, but he’s no Sheringham. He’s a good finisher, but not spectacular like an Henry or a Rooney. He’s guaranteed to work his socks off, of course. But then so would I, probably. Hertfordshire will still be rooting for him, at any rate. Even if he joins our alumni at Loftus Road.

11 – Will Buckley

I must confess disappointment that “Swash” has never caught on. Much less lazy than “Jeff”, or (jesus) “Bucko”. Sadly, this isn’t the greatest disappointment. I had outrageously high hopes for Buckley at the start of the season – raggedly single-minded outings at the end of the previous campaign had promised much more to come. And it did come, but only in fits and bursts, and only when the circumstances were favourable. Against a team that affords you great big spaces to run into, Will’s yer man. Against anyone with Lee Naylor at left back, Will is particularly likely to impress (hellooooo Cardiff). If you’re protecting a lead with ten minutes to go and your opponent’s pushing on, there’s nobody you’d rather have scampering off with the ball. Thing is, in most other circumstances Buckley has been found rather wanting, sometimes anonymous. Most damningly, he’s bucked the trend (get it?) evident in most of our young players over the same period in that he really doesn’t seem to have grown or improved much. Here, perhaps, pointers at the reasons behind his two period as persona non grata, confined to the bench even in games that were crying out for impetus. Has he been working hard enough to improve? Having had unreasonable expectations a year ago, perhaps I’m being unduly harsh now… Buckley is still a very young player, he can be devastating and he’s one of few players that have provoked a frisson of excitement as they emerge from the bench. And yet, and yet…

Next Season: Interesting that Brighton, whose recruitment policy is now overseen by John Stephenson, formerly of this parish, are the early suitors. I would like to see Buckley stay, and develop in a Watford shirt. I fancy that might not happen, though.

12- Lloyd Doyley

As he enters his testimonial season, it becomes clear that Lloyd Doyley is actually the unchanging constant at the centre of the universe. You know what you’re gonna get. You know about the good bits. You know about the slightly less good bits. You expect nothing more, nothing less. He’s the eye of the storm, the centre around which everything else is in orbit. Why else the awesome tremors that evening against QPR? The entire world was thrown out of kilter. He’s always been here. He’ll always be here. Amen.

Next Season: Some dogged defending. Several opponents marked closer than their cycling shorts. Unquestioning versatility, filling in wherever, capably. Being caught out in the air at the far post several times. Twenty seven passes shanked into the stand. Any number of bloody-minded overlaps pulling gaps in opposing defences. And, if playing left back, at least one cut inside per game with a shot sliced a foot wide. Don’t ever change, Lloydy.

13 – René Gilmartin

As has already been discussed in this series, it’s kinda hard for a reserve goalkeeper to make a positive impression. In the case of René Gilmartin, opportunities in the past season amounted to four cup games, and I must confess to having missed two of them. Not a great deal to base judgment on, then… and René could probably have done without that gaffe against Brighton in probably his highest profile game to date. He talks a good game by all accounts, and is evidently a popular guy, but doesn’t seem likely to displace Loach whilst the number one remains at the club.

Next Season: Unless Loach leaves, Gilmartin’s biggest competition seems likely to be with Jonathan Bond for the place on the bench.

14 – Ross Jenkins

After apparently slipping back in the pecking order last term, Jenkins re-emerged in the second half of this campaign as a hugely promising prospect. Still a prospect, yes… three years after first establishing himself as a regular in the first team, Jenkins is only twenty. A key factor in his downturn in fortunes in 2009/10 was the unanticipated re-engagement of John Eustace; it was quickly evident that the two didn’t complement each other in the centre and as such Jenkins, the junior partner, took a back seat. As injury and suspension limited Eustace’s involvement from January, however, Jenkins came stomping back into contention and laid down a marker. Not Eustace’s partner, no, but surely his heir. He gets… carried away occasionally, going for tackles that he perhaps shouldn’t, but our record with Jenkins in Eustace’s role was excellent, and a headed goal against Sheffield United that was marvellous in any number of ways suggested more to come.

Next Season: The trick will be keeping him happy. He’ll be a very good player – we need to make sure that he becomes so at Vicarage Road.

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Comments»

1. Luke Fairweather - 22/05/2011

The only thing missing from the Danny Graham assement is to say a big “thank you” from us all.
Luke

2. Kris - 23/05/2011

A comment on the QPR bid and your possible reasons behind it. Colin is many things but an idiot (when it comes to football dealings) isn’t one of them. I think you are partly right, he might be drawing attention away from another target. I think he also is getting this started early to avoid it being sorted in the last minute. By starting now, chances are Graham will be gone with plenty of time to spare in the window meaning that whoever do not get him will have time to search for others. I think Colin realises there’s a good chance he’ll be priced out in the case of Graham.

JohnF - 23/05/2011

Equally QPR may be testing the resolve of the new owner who remains an unknown quantity and who does appear to be prepared to upset his manager, witness Malky’s comments re Saracens.

3. Dave Jackson - 24/05/2011

Can I be the second to write that perhaps you’re being a bit unduly harsh on Buckley.
Spare us a midfield of McGinn Jenkins Eustace and Cowie, please.

4. Tim Turner - 25/05/2011

Re Buckley: as you say, it’s odd that one of the few young players not to make a significant improvement this season is the one we’ve had a bid for. Like you, I’d like him to stay, if only to give him a chance not to join the list of promisingly tricky wingers who’ve flattered to deceive at Vicarage Road – Macnamee, Ainsworth et al.

Of course, the trouble for those of us of a certain vintage is that we’re always subconsciously comparing any winger with Barnes and Callaghan, which isn’t fair on a young prospect. But maybe the answer for Buckley lies in not playing him on the wing at all, but as a speedy second striker, ie the position Sordell fills when he plays.

Matt Rowson - 25/05/2011

See I was thinking the exact same thing at the start of the season… his movement in his games up front was really good at the end of the previous campaign. I seem to remember some basic issues with the offside rule at the start of this season tho?

JohnM - 25/05/2011

Umm. Agreed. For those of us of an even greater vintage, such young prospects are coloured by the memory of Stewart Scullion ripping defences apart —although more often than not finishing with the cross clearing the stand. But what fun—

5. smarkymark - 25/05/2011

@Tim : Rod Thomas.The classic “flatter to deceive winger.Oh and Nordin Wooter!!

6. Dave Jackson - 26/05/2011

If Buckley goes, maybe we could get Lee Cook back; another under-appreciated winger, frequently dropped for away games after doing well at home.

Ian Grant - 26/05/2011

That’s one way of looking at it, Dave. The other way is that he was frequently dropped for failing to make any impact when things weren’t going his way, a flaw common among fleet-footed wingers and something that he shares with young Buckley. For me, Lee Cook was absolutely infuriating: occasional moments of brilliance that everyone still remembers, long periods when he’d be doing his hair rather than working for the team. If I was Ray Lewington, I’d have throttled him at some point.

Matt Rowson - 26/05/2011

“under-appreciated” is a rather subjective statement.


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